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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 20, New Delhi, May 1, 2021

Prisoners During the Pandemic | Humra Quraishi

Saturday 1 May 2021, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

28 April 2021

What is happening to the jailed population of this country in these pandemic times? What are the latest inputs to the health of the imprisoned? Are they fine or are they semi- alive, in the clutches of a collapsing system?

In fact, last week I was appalled to read the particular news report which described that the jailed ailing journalist Siddique Kappan has been chained to the hospital bed in a particular hospital in Uttar Pradesh. Many more traumatic details followed to the treatment meted out to this young journalist, arrested last autumn whilst he was on way to Hathras to report on the gruesome gang rape and burning of the gang rape victim of Hathras. Imprisoned since then, he has been going through hellish situations, continues to languish.

There’s no denying the fact that many jailed inmates, including Umar Khalid, have been ailing, with the deadly Corona virus playing havoc. Quite obviously, with the congested jailed conditions this was the expected outcome, but who is bothered what happens to our fellow citizens! Many jailed inmates, like Mukhtar Ansari, are fearing for their lives and safety inside the jails! Again, who gives a damn whether jails become centres for disease and destruction!

As a citizen of this country I want to know what’s been happening to my fellow citizens sitting languishing. Why can’t the under-trials be released? Why can’t the overcrowded jails be less burdened? Why can’t open jails come up in the various suburbs? Why can’t the jailed be allowed to survive in dignity and not sit chained in the most humiliating, barbaric way? Why can’t we, the not- so – jailed, get to know the well- being of our jailed citizens? Why can’t it get drilled into our heads that almost two - thirds of the jailed are under –trials and so could be innocent, yet they are sitting in such hopeless conditions?

Its simply un-nerving to realize the human destruction that’s on. Getting infected with the virus is just one aspect. The more dangerous aspect is the misery that follows as patients are left dying. At the mercy of a failed and collapsed governmental system, with the political rulers in hiding and even from that hiding unleashing obnoxious threats to the devastated human being.

Mind you, till date no political head has rolled and no bureaucratic tail has been twisted. Why should we be ruled by the lot that doesn’t bother about the semi - alive and dead citizens of this country, who have been left dying and dead, as though stranded in some jungle land, with no one held accountable for the inhuman conditions spreading out from cities to towns and qasbahs of our country…from homes to hospitals to graveyards and cremation ground and cemeteries. In fact, a very disturbing news report is just coming in : with the death toll rising in the capital, New Delhi, the stretch of land allotted for dogs crematorium in Delhi’s Dwarka locality, could be used for the cremation of human beings!

Mind you, in the midst of deaths and destructions and despair and dismay and shrieks and screams and sobs, the Central Vista project is still on and ongoing and upcoming! What would you say to this!

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan - A Spiritual Scholar Passes Away…

Last week we lost the New Delhi based spiritual scholar, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. I had first met him many years back, when I had visited his Nizamuddin situated home with my parents and siblings. If I’m not mistaken it was our first visit to New Delhi and as soon as we landed from Lucknow, my mother had insisted we visit him as she had been reading the Al-Risala magazine that he was bringing out. What struck was his personality and that also his eyes which sparkled with an amazing shine. And, of course, the entire aura spread around …

Thereafter, in these recent years, I’d met him on three separate occasions and also heard other scholars talk very highly of his knowledge and wisdom laden words. In fact, Sudhamahi Regunathan, author and a former Vice Chancellor, told me that all along she carried a different notion of Islam, along the strain that it’s a violent religion, till she’d met Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and he told her that it cannot be so, because the very word Islam means ’peace’.

And on those occasions when I visited his home, several would be seated there, listening to him, seeking his advice. Persons from different faiths and setups. I recall meeting a ‘Muslim Marwari’, Habib Mohammad, who had come all the way from Jodhpur to meet him …There was also students and academics.

And on an Eid evening, when I visited Maulana sahib’s home to wish him Eid, there was no meat dish on the table. Curiosity hitting to such an extent that I had to ask him the ‘why’ to it. "Because I ’m a vegetarian. Though the family eats gosht but I don’t…I’m hundred percent vegetarian."

Men like Maulana Wahiduddin Khan don’t really fade away …They will always be remembered. He has his left back his collection of books and thoughts and words…He is survived by three children. His daughter, Farida Khanam, is an academic and also a scholar of Islamic Studies. His two scholar sons, Zafarul Islam Khan and Saniyasnain Khan, are widely respected for their writings and works. Zafarul Islam Khan set up the Milli Gazette and Pharos Publishing, and Saniyasnain Khan is known for his Goodword Books publishing house.

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